The Lynnwood City Council at its Dec. 3 meeting continued its discussion about the pending arrival of 5G wireless antennas in the city.
The matter was brought up during the proposed Fee Schedule Amendment Ordinance, which would include changes to permit fees and rental fees for small cell antennas.
Senior Manager of Strategic Planning Corbitt Loch said the three amendments were minor “housekeeping kinds of things.”
The amendments are in response to Order 18-133 issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in September that limited the authority of local jurisdictions to regulate small-cell antenna equipment.
“The question of how much can we charge or how much should we charge has largely been answered for us whether we like it or not,” Loch said.
The FCC has set maximum rates for the permit and rental fees of $100 and $270, respectively. This is despite the city council’s initial desire to charge $1,000 to $1,200 as a rental fee for antennas on each of Lynnwood’s 400 city-owned pole. Loch said he is still waiting on an analysis from Snohomish County PUD as a data point to understand what options the city had for fee rates.
“We could propose a larger fee if we had adequate documentation to justify it,” he said. “The FCC basically says anything that’s $270 per year, per pole, or less should be on its face deemed reasonable.”
The idea of the FCC being able to dictate the rates for the instillation of antennas in the City of Lynnwood has been a topic of criticism for some. Loch said the FCC does have authority to regulate all types of communication of this type at the federal level.
Some cities like Seattle are challenging the FCC’s decision to dictate how much a city can charge in fees, but Loch said Lynnwood would go ahead with the installations at the designated rates.
“We have technology companies that are wanting to come in and get started and deploy their small-cell antennas,” he said.
However, should other cities be successful in setting their own rates for antennas, IT Director Drew Burnett said the fee schedule could be subject to change.
“Should we be able to change the rates or should this become a more prolific thing, we can absolutely bring it back,” he said.
Councilmember George Hurst said the city council should not allow the FCC to control the rates for the antennas.
“I don’t think we need to fold,” he said. “I think it’s a mistake if we mirror what the FCC is ruling.”
Hurst said he believes the city council is being prudent in setting the fees and pointed out the council has been discussing the fee rates for longer than the FCC has been involved in the discussion.
Councilmember Ian Cotton said he is in favor of creating a position where the city council could go renegotiate the rental fee for antennas should the city be successful in negotiating with the FCC.
“If the FCC and the cell carriers come in and say, ‘Too bad, so sad’ we fought valiantly,” he said. “But if the appeal goes through that’s more dollars that could go to managing this.”
The council also heard the updated draft of the pending ordinance that would require neighborhood parking permits in areas affected by spillover parking from the Scriber Creek Apartments and City Center (SHAG and City Center Apartments). Deputy Public Works Director Les Rubstelo said the draft has been reviewed by the city attorney and certain definitions have been broadened.
“We streamlined the process and took out temporary permits and added a provision to take them (permits) out should they no longer be necessary” he said.
Rubstelo said the ordinance does not say the city will charge for a parking permit and any fee for the permits would be decided by the city council.
The decision to administer parking permits would require a majority vote from the residents of affected neighborhoods, said Public Works Director Bill Franz.
The council discussed the type of parking permits that could potentially be issued and some, like Hurst, were in favor or a sticker. A sticker would be more difficult to lose and diminish the need for a replacement and accompanied cost, but should visitor passes be required they might issue a placard.
City Council President Ben Goodwin said he was concerned about the standards for parking in the neighborhoods — would there be a 24-hour “no parking” rule or would there be restricted hours — and how the restrictions would affect those with multiple visitors, like during the holidays.
Franz said the enforcement of violations in neighborhoods requiring parking permits would be on a “complaint basis.”
“We think the city and the residents will get used to how this works,” he said.
— By Cody Sexton